Welcome to the second installment of the adventures of Ava Minerva! I hope you had as much fun listening to it as we had making it.
A little background if you haven’t listened to it yet: We’re bringing you 1980s-style sci-fi tonight. A little derring-do, a little humor, and the occasional corny moment is (hopefully) part of the charm. Ava Minerva lives in a galaxy where water is tightly controlled by the oppressive Knights of the Temple, and ice is a scarce commodity. Ava Minerva is captain of the pirate ship Star of Naraghi, in a never-ending search for treasure.
- Capt. Ava Minerva: Jenny Key
- Second Mate Molly Durst: Emily Turner
- Capt. Sufjan Lowell: Stefan Langer
- Bowman, the Shipwright: Brent Bowman
- Alien Super-Intelligence: Micah Jenkins
- Additional Voices: Tony Goins
I gush over Jenny Key every time, but Ava Minerva may actually be the role she was born to play. She really brings a mix of class, ruthlessness, and sardonic humor that makes the character work. As long as she’s willing to step back to the mic, we’re happy to have her.
One of the subtexts of this piece is me being surprised by the actors.
I can’t say enough about Columbus’ theater power couple, Emily Turner and Stefan Langer. Emily’s performance of Molly is nothing like what I heard in my head, but it’s way better than what I imagined. If you have a performer on Emily’s level, you let her bring what she’s bringing.
Sufjan Lowell is right down the middle of the plate for Stefan Langer, but you’re going to hear him bring something totally different in our next episode. That’s all I’ll say about that right now.
Likewise, I expected Brent to do a standard pirate accent for Bowman, the shipwright, but when we sat down to record, his best accent was the hills of Kentucky. It really plays. To really get the 1980s feel, I think the next Ava Minerva adventure should be her vs. Sheriff Buford T. Justice.
I did not expect Micah Jenkins, as the Alien Super-Intelligence, to put tears in my eyes as he delivers his closing speech. Micah’s strength as a performer (IMHO) is that he makes really unconventional choices.
Again – you gotta trust your actors to do their thing.
About the Episode
Chase stories are one of my go-to moves … there’s something really compelling to me about two people racing both each other and the clock. I also wanted to show Ava Minerva clearly being the bad guy. To do that, I set her against someone who clearly ought to be the good guy. The tension, for me, is Stefan’s increasing frustration as he fails to save the day.
One of Ava Minerva’s secret inspirations is Harry Lime, the immortal character portrayed by Orson Welles in the Third Man, which he reprised for a spin-off radio show called “The Lives of Harry Lime.” Welles is always a charismatic performer, but “The Lives of Harry Lime” is an instructive lesson on how despicable a character can be before you stop rooting for him.
Find more “Lives of Harry Lime” at: Orson Welles On The Air
(I personally am not cynical enough to straightforwardly root for the villain. We’ll explore the circumstances that led Minerva to a life of crime as we have time.)
The Alien Super-Intelligence was a last-minute addition to the script, but ended up being my favorite part. The script was running short and it needed some more sci-fi craziness. Once I got to the idea of an omnipotent judge, though, it really snapped into place with the themes.
Finally: This is the first episode we recorded at Production Partners Media, just north of Columbus. If you have any need of a recording space, definitely call Production Partners.
I won’t keep you in suspense – the household object that serves as Ava Minerva’s cabin door is a clothes washer. I stuck the recorder inside the drum and knocked on the lid. It worked on the first take.
My second SFX trick is the Star of Naraghi’s engine. You probably noticed the sound of the engine starting up is a lawn mower with a little audio stank on it, followed by a whistle.
The sound of the ship under way is actually straps on the roof of our van. I had strapped the kayak to the roof of the minivan with the straps running through the windows. That’s what makes that thrumming sound.
Another sound that really makes the piece is a creaking ship SFX posted to Freesound.org by Craig Smith. It’s from a collection of classic SFX that was donated to the University of Southern California. Star Trek: Discovery uses a creaking ship SFX to great effect – once you’ve heard it, you can’t un-hear it.
And finally, sharp-eared listeners will detect the theme song from the classic “X-1” old-time radio show under the psychedelic freakout as Minerva is called before the alien judge. It’s one of the best themes of all time.
The following SFX are gratefully acknowledged:
- AI Warns You.wav
- AI Asking.wav
- Ruler Twangs.wav
- Rachet click
- R28-03-Large Wood Ship Creaking.wav
- Bus, Air Brake, A.wav
- Laser Cannon
- boots on aluminum ladder 01
- laser gun blast
- Alarm 0
- Static, Stylophone, A.wav
- Gong Hit